What’s in a name? A pastor’s look at hate speech, name-calling, and Donald Trump

Lori.

Logan.

Kamryn.

These three names are not mere letters combined into words on a page. These names are the names of my family – my wife and kids. Each name represents something to me – and your feelings will be different depending on whether you know us or not, or whether you know someone with one of those names. For me, I hear the name Lori, and I immediately think of my beautiful, loving, patient bride of nearly 17 years. You say the name Logan, and I’m not thinking Wolverine, I’m thinking about my soccer-loving, Lego-building, boy genius. I hear Kamryn, and I’m not thinking about Kam Chancellor, the great safety of the Seattle Seahawks, I’m thinking about my amazingly gifted, sweet, caring, intelligent, compassionate daughter.

The name of a person matters.

Think of your closest friend or family member’s name. You don’t just think about how it sounds or how it looks on the page, you think about the person that name represents.

While we can all agree that names are important, and that names carry weight and power, we can tend to slip into the dangerous waters of name-calling in a negative way. In the heat of the moment, we call someone a name, determined to hurt them and win the conflict. We most often regret it later, because we realize that we have crossed the line and hurt someone we care about.

One of the basic rules of “fighting fair” in relationships is that you NEVER call someone a name. You focus on the actions and feelings, but you never stoop to name calling. That’s because it takes the conflict and makes it personal. It reframes the issue as a referendum on the individual instead of the actual issue that caused the conflict.

Think about the last time you were called a name. For me it brings up some pretty negative memories.

Yet if you look on your news feed on Facebook, you will see people name-calling up one side and down the other. You see people writing hurtful, hateful things that they may not have had the guts to say to someone’s face, yet on the anonymous (not really) internet, the gloves come off and hurtful and hateful speech prevails.

I’m frankly embarrassed by what some of my social media friends write, while proclaiming to love God and love others, as Jesus has called us. People disparage entire ethnicities without a shred of guilt. Whole people groups are mocked because of their relationship decisions. Hateful words are spoken about genders different from our own. Entire religions are blamed for the world’s problems. Memes are created mocking the left, the right, and the center. “Jokes” are said that are best left unspoken. And people are hurt, offended, and disparaged.

It. Has. To. Stop.

But it just keeps getting worse. One appalling example is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Agree or disagree with his policies, you have to acknowledge that he says some pretty rude things. Check out this list of people he has publicly called a loser, dummy, or worse. His words and name-calling would not be acceptable under normal circumstances, yet he still has a good shot at becoming our representative to the world. Is that really how we want our president to talk about other world leaders, politicians who disagree with him, journalists who cover the White House, and general citizens who ask him questions?

Friends, particularly friends who claim to follow Jesus, we have to do better. We can’t say on Sundays that we love Jesus, and then on Monday claim that Hispanics are a burden on our economy. We can’t preach the gospel of love, and then show hatred and speak evil of Muslims. We are called by God to love all people – even, and perhaps most importantly, those who are different from us.

I encourage you to read over your personal posts for the last month, and see if you’ve fallen victim to the name calling and slander that I’m talking about. If you have, delete the post and write something positive instead. None of us is perfect, but we have to try to be better. We have to allow God to transform us into the image of his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In Love,

Kevin

Advertisements

Am I More Than a Label?

Labels. They are very helpful in most cases.

I want to know what is in my food. I want to know what is in my cleaning supplies. I want to know the warnings associated with my appliances. I want to know the side effects of my medication.

But labels can turn nasty when they are used on people.

He’s the fat guy. She’s the smart one. He’s the funny one. She’s the loud one. He’s a jerk. She’s a loon.

These types of labels take one part of a personality and purport that it is the only, or at least the most important, part of a person. We all logically know this to be true, yet we still do it. We continue to label people and try to define them and put them in a nice, neat box.

The problem is that no one fits in a nice, neat box. We’re all a smorgasbord of personality traits, physical features, emotions, and beliefs, that make up the unique person we are. That unique person was created by God in God’s own image. That’s where we need to be finding our identity – as a child of God.

I’ve often heard that if you sin, you are a sinner; If you commit a crime, you are a criminal; or If you lose your temper, you are a hot-head. I will admit that there is SOME truth in that, but if we allow ourselves to be defined solely by our actions, then we’re missing the big picture.

We are not only the sum of our actions. Yes, our actions matter, and yes, that is how we are judged, but what truly matters is who God says we are. God says we are his children, made in God’s image.

Nothing that we can do will change the fact that God has created us – that he has perfectly and wonderfully made us. When we commit sinful acts, even gross atrocities (whether actual or in our minds), we are still made in God’s image. We are still his children. He’s never going to leave us or abandon us. He’s going to love us and seek a relationship with us NO MATTER WHAT.

Whether a person is a Christ-follower, an atheist, a pagan, or an agnostic, doesn’t matter. He loves each of us the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, male, female, old, young, tall, or short, God loves you, cares for you, and wants a relationship with you.

That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about your actions – he certainly does. What it does mean is that he loves us all the same. Sometimes love requires discipline, and that certainly is the case with God, but God’s judgment doesn’t negate the fact that he loves us. Our relationship with God will necessarily change how God responds to us – but he loves us all. He demonstrated that fact when Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

God has created each of us, and he desires that all people enter into a right relationship with him. But that doesn’t mean he stops or starts loving people based on their decisions.

If you’ve really screwed up lately, I want to give you hope. I want you to know that God still loves you and offers his grace to you. Don’t beat yourself up over your actions. Accept the consequences and move on. Do what you can to make things right, but accept God’s perfect love and forgiveness for yourself. God doesn’t label you based on your sins – he labels you a Child of God based on who you have been created to be.